Curriculum Vital

The Education Umbrella Guide to Lord of the Flies
Chapter eight: ‘Gift for the Darkness’
Summary and analysis

This chapter summary is part of the Education Umbrella Guide to Lord of the Flies. Free to download or store in our Education Cloud, the guide features a chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, analysis of the symbols and objects, character profiles, and a scheme of work. 

Questions? Comments? Contact Ross: rgrainger@educationumbrella.com

Summary

Piggy looked up miserably from the dawn-pale beach to the dark mountain.

Ralph describes the beast to Piggy. He claims it has teeth and large black eyes. Jack thinks he and his hunters might be able to defeat the beast, but Ralph dismisses them as ‘boys with sticks.’ This remark makes Jack very upset.

Jack blows the conch and calls a meeting. He claims that Ralph is no longer fit to be chief. He puts the motion to a vote. None of the boys says yes. Tearful with embarrassment, Jack declares he will form his own group. He leaves.

Some of the boys, including all the hunters, follow Jack. Piggy, Simon, Sam, Eric and many of the littluns stay with Ralph. Piggy suggests they build a fire where they are, on the beach. Cheered by the idea, the boys gather wood. Piggy uses his glasses to make a flame. As Ralph rests and contemplates what to do, Piggy organises a feast of ripe fruit to celebrate the new fire. As they eat, the boys notice that Simon has slipped away.

Simon goes to his secret hiding place in the forest. He is very thirsty.

As a storm gathers, Jack leads his mutinous band on a hunt. They come across a group of pigs sleeping in the shade. They try to catch the largest sow, but she escapes. A desperate chase ensues. Having speared the sow several times, the boys are able to track her using the trail of blood. Eventually they corner the wounded animal and gleefully hack her to death. Jack orders that the pig’s head be left as an offering to the beast.

Later, Simon comes upon the severed head. In the stifling heat, he becomes covered with flies and feels a fever coming over him. He imagines that the pig’s head calls itself Lord of the Flies, and that he sees it grinning at him.

Ralph’s morale drops. Chatting with Piggy by the fire, he wonders if they will ever be rescued. Suddenly, some boys from Jack’s group rush to the fire and steal two flaming logs. Jack appears, heavily painted and naked but for a belt. He tells Ralph and his remaining followers that the hunters are going to have a feast and eat the pig they have just killed. After Jack departs, Bill, Sam and Eric think longingly about the promise of meat.

Simon now imagines that the Lord of the Flies is speaking to him. It calls him a ‘silly little boy’ and tells him to go back to Ralph and Piggy. Simon’s hallucinations become more vivid and frightening until eventually he faints.

Analysis

The pigs lay, bloated bags of fat, sensuously enjoying the shadows under the trees… A little apart from the rest sunk in deep maternal bliss, lay the largest sow of the lot. She was black and pink; and the great bladder of her belly was fringed with a row of piglets that slept or burrowed and squeaked.

The hunting and killing of the sow is meant as a depiction of sexual violence. Golding wrote Lord of the Flies nine years after the end of the Second World War, in which tens of thousands of Soviet troops raped German and Austrian women as the Red Army advanced on Berlin in the spring of 1945.

Jack and his hunters resemble the Red Army soldiers of WWII: hungry, dirty, exhausted, frightened, fearful of their chief, mad with power. Golding, who served in the British Royal Navy during the war, warns that such privation coupled with a breakdown in order and civility inevitably leads to carnage.

No longer constrained by the moral boundaries that Ralph and Piggy have put in place, Jack and his mutinous band are free to live like savages. In the previous chapter we saw that among the boys ‘the desire to squeeze and hurt’ is ‘over-mastering’. Now, with no rules holding them back, the hunters pursue their natural urges with disturbing zeal:

She blundered into a tree, forcing a spear still deeper; and after that any of the hunters could follow her easily by the drops of vivid blood. The afternoon wore on, hazy and dreadful with damp heat; the sow staggered her way ahead of them, bleeding and mad, and the hunters followed, wedded to her in lust, excited by the long chase and the dropped blood…

Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear whenever pigflesh appeared.

It is fitting that Roger, having played the role of the pig during the boys’ play in the previous chapter, now becomes consumed by the same lust that made the boys attack him with wonton viciousness. Jack, ‘on top of the sow’, makes the killer blow with his knife: ‘The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her.’

Completing the image of savagery is the offering of the pig’s head as a sacrifice for the beast. Many ancient cultures made human and animal sacrifices as a way of appeasing their god(s). Indeed, animal sacrifice still forms part of many religions today.

For more on the anthropomorphic significance and symbolism of the pig, see our Symbols, objects and motifs page.

*

Simon stayed where he was, a small brown image, concealed by the leaves. Even if he shut his eyes, the sow’s head still remained like an after-image. The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.

Simon’s hallucinations conjure the novel’s title character. He looks at the head, covered in ‘black and iridescent green’ flies, and imagines that it calls itself Lord of the Flies.

Simon’s fever, exacerbated by thirst, gives a voice to his lingering fear – that the most dangerous creatures on the island are the boys themselves. ‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!’ says the head. That is, the ‘beast’, the thing that most threatens their lives, is fear itself.

For a brief moment Simon is able to see clearly through his fear and fever and call the Lord of the Flies what it really is – ‘Pig’s head on a stick.’ The Lord of the Flies, though, with ‘the voice of a schoolmaster’, warns Simon that he (the beast) is going to get ‘waxy’ – angry.

The Lord of the Flies represents the Devil. ‘Lord of the Flies’ is a literal translation of the Hebrew word for devil, ba‘al zebub (Beelzebub). The name appears twice in the Bible, first in the Second Book of Kings:

And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. (1:2)

The second comes in the Gospel of Matthew after Jesus heals a man who is blind and dumb and possessed by a devil:

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. (12:24)

Simon’s visions reinforce his role as a prophet-like figure.

*

There were no shadows under the palms on the platform; only this strange light that seemed to come from everywhere at once. High up among the bulging clouds thunder went off like a gun.

The storm complements and contributes to the growing tension, the rising bloodlust and the swelling fever. The word ‘bulging’ brings to mind something that is ready to burst, while the simile ‘thunder went off like a gun’ once again brings to mind the wars that would have been vivid to a reader in 1954. 

Questions? Comments? Contact Ross: rgrainger@educationumbrella.com

Related resources